CENTRAL TEXAS — Officials are ramping up their presence in school zones this week to help keep kids safe now that school is back in session.
"In 2017, there were 811 vehicle crashes in school zones in Texas, resulting in 2 deaths and 30 serious injuries," according to TxDOT.
Officials are asking drivers to be aware of children in and around the school zones and follow all traffic and safety laws.
The Harker Heights department said it plans to increase police presence in school zones by police cars, motorcycles, bicycles and on foot.
"The City of Harker Heights will be authorizing extra Police Officer’s to work enforcement in the Harker Heights School zones during the opening weeks of this school year," said officials.
Harker Heights PD also reminds drivers it is illegal to pass any school bus that is stopped and operating a visual signal -- whether flashing red lights or a stop sign.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, illegally passing a school bus can result in fines up to $1,250.
In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed a statewide ban on using a wireless communications device for electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle. Texting, as well as reading or writing email, is prohibited while driving in Texas. In school zones, all drivers are prohibited from texting and using handheld devices while driving.
Penalty for violations can include fines of $25 to $99 for the first offense and $100 to $200 thereafter, said officials. Violations causing death or serious injury can result in fines up to $4,000 and a year in jail. This replaces all local texting ordinances and school zone moving violations fines may be double.
Safety measures drivers can take to help keep children safe (Harker Heights PD):
· When driving in school zones, watch out for student pedestrians.
· Slow down and watch for children congregating near bus stops.
· Look for children who might dart into the street without looking for traffic.
· Know and obey the laws concerning traffic and school buses in Texas.